4th August 2020

A2Z new research indicates 20.5m UK adults vulnerable to digital exclusion in a future cashless society

New research, conducted by A2Z, reveals that a decline in cash use during the pandemic could leave 20.5 million adults vulnerable to digital exclusion in the UK.

Cash use is dropping faster in the UK than the rest of Europe, with cash payments made during point-of-sale transactions and online orders seeing an almost 40% drop over the last year. In fact, just 4% of in-store purchases were made using cash in 2019.

This decline has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen the nation under lockdown restrictions since March. This has led to a 60% fall in the number of withdrawals from cash machines, as 54% of Brits say they are avoiding using cash.

There are significant implications for vulnerable members of society who struggle to use digital payment services, such as credit cards, mobile wallets and bank transfers.

Latest data shows that 31% of the 70+ population do not have internet access, 1.3 million people are unbanked, and one in four Brits suffer from mental health issues each year. In addition, there are an estimated 320,000 homeless people in the UK on any given night.

This suggests that at least 20.452 million people would be at a loss in a fully cashless society, either due to struggling to use digital services, being unable to monitor overspending and falling into debt, or relying on others to purchase essential items on their behalf.

On top of digital exclusion, other concerns resulting from a decline in cash use include security, sociability and savings. In a recent survey, 63% of Brits stated they would struggle to understand the value of money without physically holding cash in their hands.

Furthermore, 51% of respondents were concerned that they’d be less social without cash as physical transactions bring people together, and 74% think they’d be more vulnerable to cyberattacks if all transactions are made digitally.

Given that 36% of Brits say they could not cope in a cashless society, and a further 50% would see cash decline as a major inconvenience, It’s essential that the government puts measures in place to protect those who would be excluded from a fully digital society.